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Concrete structures play vital role for military protection,technologies advancing from ultra durable concrete for harsh climates, 3D printing concrete to living bricks

Concrete and reinforced concrete have been used in construction since the mid-19th century, and specialists regularly improve the properties of these materials. With the rapid consumption of natural resources, there is a growing concern about sustainable development. More than 6 billion tons of concrete are produced annually for various construction purposes with limited life expectancy. In addition, increasing cost of construction and demolition of concrete structures in densely populated areas is a great concern for the future. One of the best solutions to tackle these challenges is to increase the life expectancy of the structures. Residential structures and important civil structures are typically designed for a life span of 50 and 100 years respectively. However, the life expectancy of structures can be increased to several hundred years with careful planning and proper design.


Concrete structures range from from small concrete barriers used for traffic control points to giant ones to protect against deadly threats like improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and indirect fire from rockets and mortars. Concrete structures also play a vital role for Military structures used extensively in Airfield runways, Helicoptor pads, Building foundations, Drainage gutters, Roadways and many more.


They are critical for Military Protection which is defined in modern military doctrine as, “the preservation of the effectiveness and survivability of mission-related military and nonmilitary personnel, equipment, facilities, information, and infrastructure deployed or located within or outside the boundaries of a given operational area (Joint Publication [JP] 3-0). Protection techniques for armies of the past and present are constantly changing according to the battles being fought, the missions commanders must accomplish, and the advancement of technology in warfare.


No other weapon or technology has done more to contribute to achieving strategic goals of providing security than concrete structures, protecting populations, establishing stability, and eliminating terrorist threats. This was most evident in the complex urban terrain of Baghdad, Iraq. Increasing urbanization and its consequent influence on global patterns of conflict mean that the US military is almost certain to be fighting in cities again in our future wars. Concrete also gave soldiers freedom of maneuver in urban environments. In the early years of the war, US forces searched for suitable spaces in which to live.


To be sure, concrete walls did not eliminate the IED threat. Consequently, the enemy adapted by placing IEDs in or on top of barriers. They also used advanced forms of IEDs from foreign sources—explosively formed penetrators, many of which US military officials believe originated in Iran—that could penetrate any concrete wall. This allowed IEDs to be placed on the opposite, non-road side of barriers. But the concrete walls did take away the ease of access for enemy forces to emplace IEDs, degrade the lethality of their homemade devices, and forced them towards specialized materials that could be interdicted at checkpoints—which themselves were most effective when concrete walls were used to canalize traffic to them, writes John Spencer Iraq War veteran.


Many in the military are thinking about future warfare in complex urban terrain, to include operations in megacities with populations over 10 million. The US Army spent eight years fighting in the complex terrain of Baghdad. Concrete contributed to reducing the complexity of the urban environment, served as a major tool in establishing stability, and functioned as a powerful weapon against enemies using safe havens within the city, writes Maj. John Spencer is a scholar with the Modern War Institute at the United States Military Academy.


Military Requirements

The anti-explosion design of structures may not need special design treatment for civil buildings and ordinary industrial buildings, but for military buildings, it is necessary to introduce anti-explosion requirements, which play a very important role in the basic safety of military buildings. Take an example of a terrorist attack, which happened in the United States around the world famous event: September 11. On September 11, 2001, at the World Trade Center in New York, the United States, two civilian airliners hijacked by terrorists crashed into World Trade Center Building 1 and World Trade Center Building 2, respectively. Two buildings collapsed one after another after being attacked. The remaining five buildings of the World Trade Center also collapsed and damaged. In a short time, another hijacked airliner crashed into the United States. The Pentagon of the U.S. Department of Defense in Washington, D.C. The Pentagon collapsed due to partial structural damage. Although this did not happen in the real military building, it can give the military inspiration: if the more important military building can not resist structural burst, then when the enemy attacked a part of the building, the whole building will collapse.


In a conflict where bases are established and operations are conducted from these bases for years at a time, security and safety of the soldiers not on mission became a growing issue for the Army. IEDs are not the only major threat to American forces. Shortly after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, US forces also began to come under direct attack by mortars and rockets in their outposts and bases. The Army needed a way of constructing bases quickly that would provide protection for all soldiers inside, an easily constructed ballistic wall that serves as direct fire and indirect fire protection. Bunkers and fighting positions with automatic weaponry are established at key positions along the perimeter to provide the security against being overrun by enemy forces, and entry control points can be designed to provide vehicle and pedestrian access through known and heavily fortified points along the perimeter.


A bunker is a defensive military fortification designed to protect people and valued materials from falling bombs or other attacks. Bunkers are mostly underground, in contrast to blockhouses which are mostly above ground. Due to the extreme weight of heavy military vehicles (weight can range from 34,000 to 48,000 lbs.) they must be parked on reinforced concrete pads. A blast wall is a barrier designed to protect vulnerable buildings or other structures and the people inside them from the effects of a nearby explosion, whether caused by industrial accident, military action or terrorism. Permanent blast walls can be made from pre-cast reinforced concrete, or steel sheeting. Various types of moveable blast wall have been manufactured. These include the Bremer wall concrete barriers used in Iraq and Afghanistan by US Armed Forces, and the HESCO bastions, wire mesh containers filled with sand or soil, which are used by British Armed Forces.


Some countries in the world have carried out a lot of research on the explosion resistance of military building structures, and also formulated corresponding national standards. For the anti-explosion of military fortifications and important military buildings, corresponding standards have been formulated for different anti-explosion problems. These standards have been applied in the field of military design and scientific research. In the standard, researchers have given the calculation methods of explosion load for different explosion modes, such as chemical explosion, nuclear explosion, chemical explosion, etc., and focused on the anti-explosion design methods of basic structural components and key components. Of course, the standards also give suggestions on how to prevent explosion-induced disasters and secondary disasters


For military buildings, if rapid prototyping can be used to quickly build standard front-line bases and logistics sites for the military, it will be of great significance for war or peace years. So from the point of view of military building structure design, we should optimize the structure, reduce the use of raw materials, and design a reasonable structure to protect the ecological environment on the premise of ensuring the use space and safety.


Assembly building technology  refers to the new building technology that can be assembled into buildings through prefabricated components on the site, and the buildings it builds are called assembly buildings. In modern times, building houses can be manufactured in batches like machine production, typically represented by 3D printing technology. That is to say, now people can prefabricate the components outside the construction site, then transport the corresponding housing components to the site and assemble them, and a modern building is completed


Ultra-High Performance Concrete (UHPC)

Concrete is a mixture of aggregates (sand and gravel), entrained air, cement, and water. A chemical reaction between the cement and the water causes concrete to harden. This reaction is known as hydration. Concrete is, at first, a plastic mass that can be cast or molded into nearly any size or shape. When hydrated, concrete becomes stonelike in strength, durability, and hardness. The strength of concrete depends on the water-to-cement ratio used in the concrete mixture. Generally, the less water in the mix, the stronger, more durable, and watertight the concrete. Too much water dilutes the cement paste and results in weak concrete.

Ultra-High Performance Concrete (UHPC) is a powerful construction material  – Construction Cost

Ultra-High Performance Concrete (UHPC) alias reactive powder concrete (RPC), is a high-strength, ductile material that is formed by integrating portland cement, silica fume, quartz flour, fine silica sand, high-range water reducer, water, and steel or organic fibers.


Ultra-High Performance Concrete (UHPC) is a cementitious, concrete material that has a minimum specified compressive strength of 17,000 pounds per square inch (120 MPa) with specified durability, tensile ductility and toughness requirements; fibers are generally included in the mixture to achieve specified requirements. The material can be formulated to provide compressive strengths in excess of 29,000 pounds per square inch (psi) (200 MPa). The use of fine materials for the matrix also provides a dense, smooth surface valued for its aesthetics and ability to closely transfer form details to the hardened surface. When combined with metal, synthetic or organic fibers it can achieve flexural strengths up to 7,000 psi (48 MPa) or greater.


Fiber types often used in UHPC include high carbon steel, PVA, Glass, Carbon or a combination of these types or others. The ductile behavior of this material is a first for concrete, with the capacity to deform and support flexural and tensile loads, even after initial cracking. The high compressive and tensile properties of UHPC also facilitate a high bond strength allowing shorter length of rebar embedment in applications such as closure pours between precast elements. UHPC construction is simplified by eliminating the need for reinforcing steel in some applications and the materials high flow characteristics that make it self-compacting. The UHPC matrix is very dense and has a minimal disconnected pore structure resulting in low permeability (Chloride ion diffusion less than 0.02 x 10-12 m2/s. The material’s low permeability prevents the ingress of harmful materials such as chlorides which yields superior durability characteristics.


The materials are generally delivered in a three-component premix: powders (portland cement, silica fume, quartz flour, and fine silica sand) pre-blended in bulk-bags; superplasticizers; and organic fibers. UHPC provides huge benefits which range from reduced global costs like formwork, labor, maintenance and speed of construction. Various usages are found bridge beams and decks, solid and perforated wall panels/facades, urban furniture, louvers, stairs, large-format floor tiles, pipes and marine structures.


Some manufacturers have created just-add-water UHPC pre-mixed products that are making UHPC products more accessible. The American Society for Testing and Materials has established ASTM C1856/1856M Standard Practice for Fabricating and Testing Specimens of Ultra High Performance Concrete that relies on current ASTM test methods with modifications to make it suitable for UHPC.


Russian Scientists Develop a New Concrete Technology for Construction in the Arctic reported in April 2017

Concrete structures are reliable, safe for humans, and have an almost unlimited raw material base. At the same time, experts note a significant drawback of reinforced concrete structures: They are short-lived in harsh climatic conditions. Concrete wrapping the reinforcement breaks during cyclic freezing. This is due to the formation of ice in the pores of the building material, as well as mechanical stress due to temperature change, leaching of the portlandite or aging of the cement gel.


Scientists all over the world are working to increase the durability of reinforced concrete structures. SUSU researchers are also interested in this problem. A study of the durability of concrete at the Department of Building Materials and Products of the Institute of Architecture and Construction has been conducted since the 1990s, and in 2018, the master’s project was launched.


At South Ural State University, researchers have found a way to increase the service life and strength of concrete. The research can advance construction in the Arctic, Siberia and the Far East, areas with harsh climate conditions that require ultra-durable concrete. It was possible to obtain a material with such properties due to a change in the structure of the hydrated phases of cement stone. An article on this study is published in the journal Case Studies in Construction Materials.
The durability of reinforced concrete products

Russian Scientists Developed a New Concrete Technology for Construction in  the Arctic - South Ural State University

The new study shows the need to account for the stability of the hydrated phases of cement stone during cyclic freezing and thawing. “While ensuring the stability of the hydrated phases of cement stone, the mechanical properties of concrete, and consequently, its durability, remain unchanged. We proposed to evaluate durability in temporary indicators of service life depending on the operating conditions of reinforced concrete structures and the modifiers used,” SUSU Senior Lecturer Kirill Shuldyakov said.

The study was conducted in the laboratory of SUSU at a temperature of -50 degrees C in a 5% sodium chloride solution. It should be noted that foreign colleagues were surprised by this approach since they have the most severe test conditions of -20 degrees. However, these are the conditions recreated in the laboratory of SUSU that correspond to the national standard. This allows researchers to create a material that can withstand operational impacts, and the environments of the Arctic, Siberia and the Far East.


Highly durable concrete with a water/cement ratio of less than 0.35 was subjected to cyclic freezing and thawing. The stability of the material structure was evaluated both before cyclic impacts and after a different number of them. As a result, the scientists concluded that the frost resistance grade of concrete can change four to five times with a constant water-cement ratio, but with the introduction of various modifiers that affect the composition of hydrated phases. A stable hydrosilicate gel was formed when the amount of portlandite in the cement stone was not more than 5%. This was ensured by the introduction of optimal dosages of modern modifying additives.


“The mechanism of cement gel crystallization is associated with an increase in its basicity upon absorption of lime by the initially formed calcium hydrosilicates. The introduction of pozzolana (a mineral additive that enhances the strength and durability of concrete) reduces the concentration of lime, causes the active polymerization of silicon-oxygen tetrahedra, especially during cyclic freezing, which contributes to the formation of stable colloidal dispersed calcium hydrosilicates,” Kirill Shuldyakov explained. The research of SUSU scientists can help in the construction of structures in harsh conditions, for example, the Power of Siberia gas pipeline, and in the development of the Arctic region.


But scientists do not intend to stop in their work. The next step is the study of diffusion permeability of concrete. According to the standard GOST 31384-2017, this characteristic determines the service life of reinforced concrete structures. Research in the field of materials science is one of the three strategic directions for the development of scientific and educational activities of South Ural State University along with IT and the environment. SUSU is a participant in the 5–100 Project, intended to increase the competitiveness of Russian universities among the world’s leading research and academic centers.


CAER Program to Create High-performance Concrete for U.S. Military reported in Jan 2021

A new University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER) project seeks to create new, high-performance cements and concretes that will aid United States military operations both domestically and abroad. Titled “High Performance Cementitious Materials to Advance Expedient Repairs and Structural Hardening Priorities,” this $2.5 million program is funded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC).

CAER Program to Create High-performance Concrete for U.S. Military | UKNow

“The mobilization and deployment of the American military in areas with heavily damaged, limited or nonexistent infrastructure presents an unconventional range of critical operational challenges,” said Bob Jewell, research program manager for CAER’s Cementitious Materials research program. “Bridges, runways, roadways and hardened structures are critical to military force projection and often need to be fabricated or repaired — very quickly. Additionally, our soldiers and military personnel have a very limited range of tools and equipment with them.”


The CAER project seeks to solve both of those issues through the development of new high-strength, high-bond cements and concretes that are simple to deploy and use. These products will require little or no surface preparation and eliminate the heavy precast reinforcement-laden structural elements that bog down repair and construction projects. “The successful development of these materials will greatly simplify logistics, speed of construction, and ongoing repair,” Jewell said. “These cements and concretes will provide incredible value in forward deployments to enhance operational readiness by enabling expedient deployment of forces across enemy or undeveloped terrain.”


CAER is known worldwide for its development of novel, high-performance, and more environmentally friendly cement and concrete products. As CAER Director Rodney Andrews notes, this project is a natural extension of those efforts. “Our Cementitious Materials research team has a tradition of cement and concrete innovation,” Andrews said. “We also have a proud history of partnering with the U.S. military to provide solutions to their toughest challenges. We are honored to be selected to do that again with this ERDC project.”


Effort sponsored by the U.S. Government under Other Transaction for Prototype Agreement number W912HZ1990001 between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Engineer Research and Development Center and the Government. The U.S. Government is authorized to reproduce and distribute reprints for Governmental purposes notwithstanding any copyright notation thereon. The views and conclusions contained herein are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as necessarily representing the official policies or endorsements, either expressed or implied, of the U.S. Government.


Concrete with improved impact endurance for defense structures reported in Oct 2019

Engineers from the Military Studies Center at Far Eastern Federal University (MSC FEFU) developed concrete with improved impact endurance and made of up to 40 percent waste from rice husk cinder, limestone crushing waste and siliceous sand. The new concrete is six to nine times more crackle-resistant than the types produced under GOST standards.


The new concrete is suitable for the construction of military and civil defense structures, load-carrying structures of nuclear power plants, or for buildings in the Arctic. The endurance of the new type of concrete increases with according to the impact affecting it. A slab of the material exhibits the so-called ‘rubber effect’: it contracts and becomes springy, but doesn’t crack. According to the engineers, the construction absorbs impact due to its dynamic viscosity. This effect is caused by the reinforcement of concrete, in this case, by adding metal or touchstone fibers to it. Impact-proof concrete can resist not only shell hits, but also tsunami waves. Moreover, it has seismic stability. During the pouring process, the concrete self-seals, which means it can be used to create complex structures, including underground constructions.


“We’ve balanced the components with the accuracy of 0.5 percent. It was important for us that the concrete holds up until the first crack for as long as possible, because after a concrete structure cracks, its deterioration is just a matter of time. Today, the whole world is working on counter-terrorist security facilities that would defend other structures from a shell hit or a plane crush. We’ve approached this issue from our own angle and developed an impact-proof material. In the next stage of our work, we want to create radiation-resistant concrete,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Roman Fediuk, a professor at the Military Studies Center at Far Eastern Federal University. According to him, a technological scheme for the manufacture of the new concrete has already been developed, and negotiations about its implementation are underway. The scheme would not require any extensive investments or modernization of facilities.


The manufacture of the impact-proof concrete can be even more cost-effective than GOST-based types, as it contains less cement and more waste products. MSC FEFU has a separate scientific school working on the development of composite materials for special facilities, as well as civil construction. The work of the engineers is based on the principle of naturalness—they want their concrete to be as stable as natural stone. This principle is promoted by a branch of science called geonics or geomimetics. The groundwork of this field was laid by Professor Valery Lesovik from Shukhov Belgorod State Technological University, a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Architecture and Construction Sciences.


Earlier this year FEFU engineers together with their colleagues from Kazan State University of Architecture and Engineering presented a new type of concrete with increased initial strength that would speed the concrete pouring process by three to four times. This type of concrete doesn’t crack or leak, is resistant to low temperatures, and may be used for building in the Far East and in the conditions of the extreme North.


US military 3D printing concrete structures on site

In a world first, the US Armed Forces in 2018  3D printed a barracks out of concrete on site at an army base, in less than two days. The Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC) constructed the 46-square-metre building in 40 hours at the US Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Champaign, Illinois. “This is the first-in-the-world on-site continuous concrete print,” said Captain Matthew Friedell, a project officer from the MCSC additive manufacturing team. “People have printed buildings and large structures, but they haven’t done it on-site and all at once.”


The barracks has a slightly undulating facade with visible striations where the printer has added layer upon layer of concrete. The MCSC teamed up with a task force from the marines to build the barracks, which required four people to supervise and refill the printer with concrete over the course of the 40 hours. Friedell said the process could be reduced to one day with the help of a robot to do the mixing and pumping. Usually, to construct a barracks manually out of wood would take ten marines five days. The project was a field test to evaluate the potential of 3D-printed construction. The MCSC additive manufacturing team wants to see the technology more widely used in the Marines.


“In 2016, the commandant said robots should be doing everything that is dull, dangerous and dirty, and a construction site on the battlefield is all of those things,” Friedell continued. “In active or simulated combat environments, we don’t want marines out there swinging hammers and holding plywood up.” “Having a concrete printer that can make buildings on demand is a huge advantage for Marines operating down range.” Friedell said the technology could also advantage communities when the military was on humanitarian or disaster-relief missions. Major advances have been made in recent years as architects and engineers have explored the potential of 3D printing in construction.


Megan Kreiger, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers official based in Champaign, Illinois, was among those who demonstrated a 3-D printing technology called ACES: Automated Construction of Expeditionary Structures. It is being developed by the Army, NASA and the Caterpillar corporation. Unlike a home 3-D printer that might go on sale for Cyber Monday, ACES is the size of a largish garden shed. Instead of using a plastic medium, it prints layer upon layer of concrete and aggregate in a process that Kreiger likened to frosting being piped onto a cake.


She said that ACES has been in testing at Fort Leonard Wood for the past three weeks, the first time it’s been used outdoors and the first time it’s used “local materials” — in other words, the concrete that was available at Fort Leonard Wood, instead of the lab. So far, the device has been performing well under a variety of weather conditions, including cold, rainy Missouri spring weather, she said. This is the first time ACES has printed out a structure on an uneven gravel surface, which is notable because most 3-D printers must have a perfectly flat surface before they can print. It only took 21.5 hours to print out a barracks hut suitable for housing 20 soldiers, she said. A simple bunker structure, complete with fortifying rebar, took only two hours to make with ACES.


U.S. Marines use ICON 3D Printing to create concrete structures reported in Aug 2020

Texas-based construction firm ICON has partnered with the U.S. government-backed Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), to demonstrate the military applications of 3D printing at the Camp Pendleton Marine base. Working with the DIU, ICON trained a crew of eight Marines to use its concrete 3D printers. Despite their limited engineering experience, the troops managed to print a vehicle hide structure from scratch in just 36 hours. Following the successful demonstration, the technology could now be adopted across the U.S. Armed Forces, with the aim of supporting its military operations around the world.

The US marines (pictured) led the printing process, under the observation of the ICON's team. Photo via ICON.

As part of the project, eight Marines were trained to use ICON’s 3800 pound Vulcan 3D printer, including its operating software and material delivery subsystems. The aim of the session was to ready the troops for a field demonstration, in which they would build potentially important structures for future army expeditions. Following their crash course in 3D printing, the Marines were tasked with building a vehicle hide structure composed of a series of concrete arches. With just a few hours of field training under their belts, the soldiers managed to operate the equipment from the start to finish, with ICON’s team only present in a supervisory capacity.


The goal of the project was to complete the printing process within 40-48 hours. Some time had been set aside for troubleshooting and getting the Marines up to speed, but the Marines managed to complete the build within just 36 hours. Although an upgrade to the printer’s material delivery system did accelerate the process, the Marines were also able to quickly grasp the basics of operating ICON’s 3D printer.


Using a proprietary cement-based material called Lavacrete, the Marines built four individual arches, which were later connected to create a vehicle hide structure measuring 26’ length x 13’ width x 15’ height. Having proved that the technology could be adopted and applied by relative newcomers, ICON’s 3D printing technology could now be used in a host of U.S. military applications in future.



Bricks Alive! Scientists Create Living Concrete, reported in Jan 2020

For centuries, builders have been making concrete roughly the same way: by mixing hard materials like sand with various binders, and hoping it stays fixed and rigid for a long time to come. Now, an interdisciplinary team of researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder, has created a rather different kind of concrete — one that is alive and can even reproduce.


Minerals in the new material are deposited not by chemistry but by cyanobacteria, a common class of microbes that capture energy through photosynthesis. The photosynthetic process absorbs carbon dioxide, in stark contrast to the production of regular concrete, which spews huge amounts of that greenhouse gas. Photosynthetic bacteria also give the concrete another unusual feature: a green color. “It really does look like a Frankenstein material,” said Wil Srubar, a structural engineer and the head of the research project. (The green color fades as the material dries.)

The process begins with inoculation of colonies of bacteria into a solution of sand and gelatin. The process used in the research takes in carbon dioxide and creates calcium carbonate, mineralizing the gelatin which, in turn, binds the sand. “We use bacteria to help grow the bulk of the material needed for construction,” said assistant professor Wil Srubar of the Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering (CEAE) at University of Colorado Boulder.


Other researchers have worked on incorporating biology into concrete, especially concrete that can heal its own cracks. A major advantage of the new material, its creators say, is that instead of adding bacteria to regular concrete — an inhospitable environment — their process is oriented around bacteria: enlisting them to build the concrete, and keeping them alive so they make more later on. The new concrete, described Wednesday in the journal Matter, “represents a new and exciting class of low-carbon, designer construction materials,” said Andrea Hamilton, a concrete expert at the University of Strathclyde, in Scotland.


These bricks are as rough and tough as most modern mortar used in buildings by construction workers in our cities every day. Those new bricks are resilient: According to the group’s calculations, roughly 9-14% of the bacterial colonies in their materials were still alive after 30 days and three different generations in brick form. Bacteria added to concrete to develop self-healing materials, in contrast, tend to have survival rates of less than 1%. “We know that bacteria grow at an exponential rate,” Srubar said. “That’s different than how we, say, 3D-print a block or cast a brick. If we can grow our materials biologically, then we can manufacture at an exponential scale.”


The Department of Defense is interested in using the reproductive ability of these “L.B.M.s” — living building materials — to aid construction in remote or austere environments. “Out in the desert, you don’t want to have to truck in lots of materials,” Dr. Srubar said. “We know bacteria grow at an exponential rate, so rather than manufacturing bricks one-by-one, you may be able to make one brick and have it split into two, then four, and so on,” said Srubar. “That would revolutionize not only what we think of a structural material, but also how we fabricate structural materials at an exponential scale.”

Bricks Alive! Scientists Create Living Concrete - The New York Times

He notes that there’s a lot of work to do before that happens. The team’s cyanobacteria, for example, need humid conditions to survive—something that’s not possible in more arid regions of the world. So he and his team are working to engineer microbes that are more resistant to drying out so they remain alive and functional. The research team is working to make the material more practical by making the concrete stronger; increasing the bacteria’s resistance to dehydration; reconfiguring the materials so they can be flat-packed and easily assembled, like slabs of drywall; and finding a different kind of cyanobacteria that doesn’t require the addition of a gel. But the possibilities are big. Srubar imagines a future in which suppliers could mail out sacks filled with the desiccated ingredients for making living building materials. Just add water, and people on site could begin to grow and shape their own microbial homes. “Nature has figured out how to do a lot of things in a clever and efficient way,” Srubar said. “We just need to pay more attention.”


Eventually, Dr. Srubar said, the tools of synthetic biology could dramatically expand the realm of possibilities: for instance, building materials that can detect and respond to toxic chemicals, or that light up to reveal structural damage. Living concrete might help in environments harsher than even the driest deserts: other planets, like Mars. “There’s no way we’re going to carry building materials to space,” Dr. Srubar said. “We’ll bring biology with us.”


Amazon and Breakthrough Energy Ventures Co-Lead Investment in Cleantech Company, CarbonCure

CarbonCure Technologies, a Canadian cleantech company that develops carbon dioxide removal (CDR) solutions for the concrete industry,  announced in Sep 2020 an investment by leading technology and property developers. Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund and Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV) co-led the investment syndicate comprising Microsoft, BDC Capital, 2150, Thistledown Capital, Taronga Ventures, and GreenSoil Investments.


The investment represents a commitment to tackling the carbon footprint of concrete, the most abundant human-made material in the world. Cement — the key ingredient that gives concrete its strength — is also one of the largest emitters of carbon dioxide in the built environment. “This collaborative investment by technology and property development firms is a great endorsement of CarbonCure as the go-to CDR solution for the growing tech construction space and the overall shift towards low embodied carbon construction materials,” said Robert Niven, CEO and Co-Founder of CarbonCure Technologies.


“We are excited to invest in CarbonCure, a company producing stronger, more sustainable concrete, which will help Amazon and other companies meet The Climate Pledge, a commitment to be net-zero carbon by 2040,” said Kara Hurst, Vice President of Sustainability, Amazon. “We are looking forward to lowering the carbon footprint of many of our buildings by using CarbonCure concrete, including in Amazon’s HQ2 building in Virginia.” CarbonCure intends to use the capital investment to accelerate its product roadmap and geographical expansion in order to meet its goal of removing 500 megatonnes (500 million metric tonnes or 500 Mt) of carbon dioxide annually from the concrete industry by 2030.


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